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Down of LTA-555 May 1953 As told by Jack Taylor and Ben Rebman to Grant Lannon

the ground. After disentan- gling his legs from above, Rebman also cut himself down. His legs, back, and the side of his face were injured, and he had broken skin like a rash above his waist. Later he learned that he had 32 shrap- nel holes in his back.

Rebman heard the air- plane crash close by and felt the heat as it exploded. He tried to get to a ditch while a .50 caliber gun shot at him from a hill. Hearing a giant roar, he saw a Marine Corps F4U Corsair coming down the valley just a few feet off the ground, strafing and dropping bombs. The Corsair nearly killed him, but he reached the ditch only to be imme- diately surrounded by Chinese.

Taylor and Reb- man were marched to- gether to a cave where they were held until nightfall, then marched at night to a staging area where they were placed with South Korean POWs. The airmen had Korean printed survival kits that offered rewards for helping the Americans escape. Taylor contacted one of the South Koreans with his kit, and the Ko- rean turned him into the Chinese. So much for friendly allies.

They were treated fairly when they were first captured on the front lines (probably because of one fighting man’s respect for an- other, Taylor said), but as they got further from the front lines, the hostility increased. “One could

Nearly 50 years later, Russ takes the controls of Grant Lannon and Ron Dietes’ re-creation of the Mosquito’s Triple Nickel. A youthful Russ Weaver at the controls of the original Triple Nickel. suppose that since they were not fighting, they could take their kicks out on any prisoner, since the pris- oner was reasonably defenseless,” he said. After the staging area, he and Rebman were taken to Korean farmhouses where they were sep- arated. Taylor was held in a mud attachment to the house, and the Chinese took his shoes to ensure he did not try to escape. COURTESY G. LANNON COURTESY G. LANNON Rebman said the Chinese put a gun to his head many times, and he was put in front of a firing squad twice. He was also denied food as pun- ishment and lost 40 pounds. Sometimes they put him in a small box outside, but he simply kicked the box apart. One time after he kicked the box apart, Rebman walked down to the river and took a bath (that was the only bath he received in four months). Rebman was amazed that the Chinese didn’t punish him for the bath. Before he got to the permanent camp, a Chinese soldier took Taylor’s Army ID and put it in his pocket. Taylor grabbed the sol- dier, threw his gun on the ground, put the guy in a bear hug, and got his ID back. Those sol- diers never threatened him again. After four months, the war was over, but the prisoners were not told right away. Instead, they were marched and then trucked to a large prison facility near the Yalu River. Weeks later the prisoners were put on a train to Panmun- jom for the prisoner exchange. Af- ter being welcomed back by a U.S. brigadier general, the ex-POWs were given a delousing and a long shower. For Taylor, freedom meant a great big dish of ice cream fol- lowed by a cigar (which he wished he hadn’t smoked because it did not sit well right away).

WARBIRDS

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